How the housing problem in Haiti can be solved

Housing in Haiti was already a problem even before the 2010 earthquake. After it, the level of poverty, and consequently the lack of sufficient, decent housing, was worsened. While the sub-standard buildings that had been erected before, without adherence to building codes and earthquake and hurricane resistance, were not the ideal, it can be debated that they were still better than the current broken-down structures and tarpaulin tents that many Haitians now call home. Their inadequacy becomes clear every time it rains.


New ideas in home building are coming out of the woodwork in a worldwide attempt to help eradicate homelessness in poorer countries and the world at large. Of the brilliant new ideas is the possibility of houses made from plastic bottles, shipping containers, and mixed materials such as clay, sand and straw.

Plastic bottle houses are made by forming the recyclables in mud or cement after filling them with sand. These houses can be bullet-proof, cool and fire proof, not to mention a fraction of the traditional building costs. One two-bedroom home on 1200 square feet would take 14,000 bottles.

Those built from shipping containers can be used for both emergency and relief purposes, but also can be adapted for permanent housing needs. The insides are lined with plywood and the units accommodate built-in, fold-away furniture.

Also possible are houses made from straw, which can considerably lessen building costs and future energy costs, and those made from a mixture of straw, sand and clay. The latter, called cob houses, are porous and stay cool during the summer while warding off mold, termites and rot.

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